By Rylie Geohegan
Not a Thank You Letter
I could say thank you to the women gone unrecognized.
To the unsung heroines who sang the song of freedom
Dorothy Height, Ella Baker, Amelia Boynton Robinson
To the heroines who drove buses to freedom
Jo Ann Robinson, Diane Nash, Ruby Doris Smith
To the heroines who organized the March on Washington
step, by step, foot in front of the other, marched alongside Martin Luther King Jr.,
yet barely received a footnote.
Yes, these are only a few that have been written out of our history books.
I could give thanks to Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, Dorothy Vaughan-
the human computers behind our first missions for space exploration
yet you were treated as “Other.”
“One giant leap for mankind,” two steps back from the finish line labeled gender equality.
The iron ladies-the Iron Jawed Angels
who starved for women’s suffrage only to be handed a platter of suffering
Alice Paul, Marrion Wallace.
Iron first, iron will, ironed out the wrinkles in the husband’s clothes
while he goes to his real job, you “just” stay at home
or you fight for an education to work alongside husbands,
making up to 80 cents for every dollar.
It makes no sense, that it will take more than 200 years to close this wage gap
unless women link together.
I could say “thank you” to the women who have begun to form this chain.
Women like Lenny’s mother and Anne Ream,
who pick up the ‘fallen’ that have been marked unclean
after being stripped of their clothes, power, and relative feminine purity.
These are the some of the unseen figures who have inconspicuously rewritten the
definition of “woman.” Now females can dream of becoming doctors, politicians, and
scientists instead of unassuming background figures.
You planted the seeds and now the fruits of your labor will nourish women for years to come as they continue your fight.
No, a thank you is not enough for all the women gone unrecognized.
Rylie Geohegan is a freshman environmental engineering major at Georgia Institute of Technology. In the poem above, she reflects on history’s silencing of women and their lack of public recognition despite noteworthy work. She draws inspiration from a visit to Atlanta’s Center for Civil and Human Rights, and the museum’s mentions of the refusal to allow women to serve as keynote speakers during the 1963 March on Washington. The poem alludes to other historical events that were characterized by sexism, such as the women behind NASA successfully sending the first American into orbit around the Earth. The mentions of the “fight for education” also refer to Aissatou’s plight in Mariama Bâ’s So Long A Letter and Lenny’s family’s attitude toward her education in Bapsi Sidhwa’s Cracking India.
This poem’s featured image can be found here.